Value, Exchange, and Heinrich’s ‘New Reading of Marx’: Remarks on Marx’s Value-Theory, 1867–72

In: Historical Materialism
Barbara Lietz Independent scholar Berlin Germany
Member of the MEGA editorial team until 1990

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Winfried Schwarz Independent scholar Frankfurt am Main Germany
Member of the Institut für Marxistische Studien und Forschungen (IMSF) until 1990

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The exclusive emergence of value and abstract human labour through exchange of mere products is a fundamental principle within the ‘New Reading of Marx’, especially that of Michael Heinrich. He invokes both Capital and the manuscript Additions and Changes, where Marx revised his value-form analysis for the second edition of Capital. However, this manuscript does not support Heinrich’s view. In the same handwritten manuscript, Marx drafted the subsection on the fetishism of the commodity with two passages that Heinrich claims as evidence for his interpretation. Against this, we elaborate Marx’s understanding of abstract human labour as the specific social character of private labour; it does not result from exchange but rather is its prerequisite. Heinrich’s attempt fails to include demand in the magnitude of value. Finally, he does not explain the value-formation by circulation and production. Rather, his one-sided view of exchange means, by way of its logical implications, that the capitalist production process is no longer the unity of the labour process and the valorisation process, but mere production of use-values.

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